bull dangerThere have been some alarming recent cases of bulls causing injuries and even deaths to humans.  It's a no-go contest for a human against a 400-500kg beast that can easily go from zero to 30km/hour in just a few seconds.

On too many farms the bull is still working into December and over the Christmas holidays and they are always a health and safety hazard to farm staff, but more so to friends and family visiting small blocks over the holiday period.

So-called 'friendly' bulls are the most dangerous, as their style of play is to knock you over and give you a head butt or two into the bargain. It can lead to broken bones, punctured lungs and internal organ injury. And that's the least you usually get away with. If they get you down and squash you with their heads then the undertaker could miss his Christmas dinner.

All the cows should have been mated weeks earlier, but as on dairy farms, there's always a long list of reasons for delayed oestrus and late pregnancies.

The peak hazard time for handling bulls is when separating them from cows, as inevitably they want to get back to the herd - their harem.  Fences and people standing in the way with pieces of plastic water pipe are no problem to a galloping bull.  Yards and head bales for bulls need to be doubly strong, with escape gaps for handlers in corners.  Top hinges should always be reversed to prevent gates being lifted off and injuring staff.

If cows are not in good condition at calving, there is no way they can put it on in the first weeks of lactation when in negative nutritional balance when more nutrients are going out than can be go into the cow from its diet.

A recently invented term called 'phantom pregnancies' has appeared to describe dairy cows that as far as everyone could determine, by the end of the AB season they were pregnant as they had not cycled. But then suddenly as a special Christmas treat, the bulls being used to 'tail up' the herd after AB are busy working again indicating a very strung-out calving.

For some as yet unexplained reason, embryos have been absorbed so the cow starts cycling again, but the genetics of the modern dairy cow to keep on milking at the expense of body condition has got to be heavily involved.

On beef farms, multiple suckling calves on a heavy-milking cow will also delay return to oestrus, so extra feeding with some form of concentrate meal may be a wise move. You can also reduce calf numbers sucking her until she cycles and gets pregnant.

It's a good idea to call it a day with the herd mating programme in December and get rid of the bull, so he's not hanging about over Christmas with little work to do and becoming an increasing hazard.

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